Ion irradiation and modification: The role of coupled electronic and nuclear energy dissipation and subsequent nonequilibrium processes in materials

YW Zhang and WJ Weber, APPLIED PHYSICS REVIEWS, 7, 041307 (2020).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0027462

Understanding material responses to energy deposition from energetic charged particles is important for defect engineering, ion-beam processing, ion-beam analysis and modification, geologic aging, space exploration, and nuclear applications. As an incident ion penetrates a solid, its energy is transferred to electrons and to atomic nuclei of the solid. Much of this electronic energy deposition is subsequently transferred to the atomic structure via electron-phonon (e-ph) coupling, leading to local inelastic thermal spikes in which energy dissipation is influenced by the local environment. In addition, intense ionization can lead to high densities of localized electronic excitations in wide- bandgap materials and ceramics that can affect defect dynamics and atomic mobility. Specifically, energy exchange between electrons and atomic nuclei, along with localized electronic excitations, can lead to substantial competitive (ionization-induced annealing), additive (both electronic and nuclear energy depositions contributing to damage production), and synergistic (more damage than the sums of separate damage processes) effects. Although nonmonotonic effects of the e-ph coupling strength and athermal processes are demonstrated for pre- existing defects and residual damage during ion-solid interactions, there is limited understanding of when such electronic effects must be considered in atomic-scale models of damage production and evolution in a broad variety of materials. Complex ceramics and chemically disordered solid solution alloys with different constituent elements allow a systematic evaluation of defect dynamics and irradiation performance with increasing complexity. Current knowledge regarding tuning of bonding characteristics and chemical disorder to control atomic-level dynamics is reviewed. Although a lack of fundamental understanding obstructs the advancement of reliable predictions for ion beam material modification, it highlights challenges and opens research opportunities. Insights into the complex electronic and atomic correlations with extreme energy deposition will strengthen our ability to design materials and predict ion-irradiation-induced damage in a radiation environment, and they may pave the way to better control fundamental processes and design new material functionalities for advanced technologies.

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